Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Were There Two Bishops of Rome in the Church Until the End of the Third Century?

I have always found it puzzling that the hypomnemata usually attributed to Hegesippus credits the founding of Rome to Peter and Paul. The claim is recycled by Irenaeus in Book Three of his Against the Heresies as well all the Church Fathers who used the hypomnemata as a source. Yet Irenaeus doesn't just cite the hypomnemata - he develops the original material beyond what was written on the original page.

For Irenaeus, the supposed founding of the church at Rome by Peter and Paul demonstrates an original apostolic unity. Such an original unity provides a powerful slogan of polemics. One can point alsto to Clement of Rome and Ignatius making the same inference - the status accorded to the church at Rome by virtue of its association with both Peter and Paul (particularly as glorious martyrs) is the the basis for appeals to unity in the context of disputes about leadership in local church communities. Irenaeus explicitly cites the letter of Clement to the church at Corinth as an example of Rome's exercise of the authority of Peter and Paul.

Irenaeus has constructed a lineage of apostolic succession in the early church that defines apostolic authority (and thus what is for Irenaeus a standard for Christian doctrinal truth) in terms of the church at Rome founded by Peter and Paul. We have demonstrated here that the original source is clearly the hypomnemata wrongly ascribed to Hegesippus (it was actually written by Polycarp). Yet there has always been something strange about this founding of the Roman See by two apostles. Most of us, think of Rome as the See of St. Peter. Yet this is not what our earliest sources agree upon.

Could it be that the co-founding of the Roman See had more to do with contemporary ecclesiastical controversies at the time of the composition of the original hypomnemata (mid-second century) than any real historical claim that Peter and Paul walked hand in hand throughout the Imperial capitol?

We have to go back to the famous story in the fragments of Irenaeus that Polycarp, an itinerant preacher came to Rome and had a dispute with its bishop Anicetus. Irenaeus merely glosses over the circumstances of that dispute saying only that it had to do with the calculation of Easter. Yet Talley has rightly shown that it went far beyond that to a specifically Jewish character that Polycarp was developing for his Paschal service. Irenaeus says that they 'agreed to disagree' with one another. However we have uncovered a great deal of evidence that a kind of agreement was ultimately reached where both traditions existed side by side one another almost as two separate churches.

Could the symbolism of the founding of Rome by 'Peter and Paul' correspond to these two separate but equal churches within the Roman ecclesiastical establishment? There are a number of intriguing clues which suggest to me at least that in fact there were two bishops of Rome - one of the 'Jews' (or of the 'Judaising' faith of Polycarp) and the other 'of the Gentiles.' Each of these communions in turn should be seen as being under the auspices of Peter and Paul respectively.

Let's start with the evidence for a 'bishop of the Gentiles' at Rome. Photius of Constantinople applies this title to the author of the Labyrinth who he presumes to be Gaius of Rome - "This Gaius, is reported to have been a presbyter of the church in Rome during the pontificate of Victor and Zephyrinus and to have been ordained bishop of the Gentiles." Yet scholars have rightly pointed to the fact that the marginal note which Photius used to identify the text's author as Gaius is certainly wrong. The material was clearly written by Hippolytus. So he, rather than Gaius, must be the 'bishop of the Gentiles.'

Indeed it was at this very same time (i.e. after the reign of Victor and Zephyrinus) that Hippolytus, the disciple of Irenaeus, is said to have set up shop as 'anti-Pope' in Rome. In other words, at the very time Calixtus, the former deacon of Zephyrinus, was made made 'Pope' Hippolytus was off in some other part of Rome (Portus) claiming that he was 'another Pope.' Yet it is interesting to note that in Tertullian's criticism of Hippolytus's rival Calixtus he makes absolutely certain reference to Calixtus's role as the successor to Peter - "As to thy decision, I ask, whence dost thou usurp this right of the Church? If it is because the Lord said to Peter: Upon this rock I will build My Church, I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven', or whatsoever though bindest or loosest on earth shall be bound or loosed in heaven', that thou presumest that this power of binding and loosing has been handed down to thee also, that is to every Church in communion with Peter's (ad omnem ecclesiam Petri propinquam, i.e. Petri ecclesiae propinquam), who art thou that destroyest and alterest the manifest intention of the Lord, who conferred this on Peter personally and alone?" (On Pudicity 21) The edict was an order to the whole Church (ib., i): "I hear that an edict has been published, and a peremptory one; the bishop of bishops, which means the Pontifex Maximus, proclaims: I remit the crimes of adultery and fornication to those who have done penance." Doubtless Hippolytus and Tertullian were upholding a supposed custom of earlier times, and the pope in decreeing a relaxation was regarded as enacting a new law.

Yet Calixtus was the very 'successor to the authority of Peter' and Hippolytus 'the bishop to the Gentiles.' Is it now too much to infer that Hippolytus occupied the chair of Paul? It is of course very tempting now to identify Gaius with Calixtus. After all Gaius is clearly the praenomen of someone and Calixtus's praenomen is unknown. Lightfoot actually went in the opposite direction and tried to argue that Gaius was Hippolytus's praenomen. Yet this idea has been dismissed in recent years because of the evidence that Hippolytus wrote a specific work against Gaius and his denial of the authority of the Johannine canon.

Yet some of Lightfoot's argument is interesting for our purposes. He notes:

Caius is simply an interlocutor in a dialogue against the Montanists written by Hippolytus. By this person, who takes the orthodox side in the discussion, Hippolytus may have intended himself, or he may have invented an imaginary character for dramatic purposes. In other words, such a dialogue may really have taken place, or the narrative may be fictitious from beginning to end. In the former case, we may suppose that Caius was his own praenomen ; for then he he would naturally so style himself in the dialogue, just as Cicero appears under the name of Marcus in his own writings.

As such one may tentatively say that the argument that Lightfoot lays out for Caius being the praenomen of Hippolytus could well be applied to Calixtus.

Yet the question which is now before us is whether the existence of two bishops in Rome - one of Peter and another of Paul - already existed at the end of the second century. It is worth noting that Hippolytus's Little Labyrinth makes the eye-opening claim that the truth of the apostles was carried down until Victor but that Zephyrinus ultimately adulterated the original apostolic faith. This sounds very reminiscent of the claims of the Philosophumena (usually attributed to Hippolytus) where Calixtus is similarly charged with a break from apostolic practice.

Yet the strange thing which has always puzzled me is the fact that Irenaeus is always depicted as being in Rome actively mediating between Victor and the rest of the Church. Irenaeus is described as a 'bishop' though we are continually told that his see was in Lyons. Why then does he spend so much time in Rome? Could Irenaeus have sat in the throne of Paul in Rome while Victor resided in the throne of St. Peter? It is at least worth considering.

Dollinger brings up some more interesting points about Hippolytus's references to his master Irenaeus:

Hippolytus repeatedly calls his teacher Irenaeus, Bishop of Lugdunum, the " blessed Presbyteros ; "and in one of the two treatises which Photius would attribute to Caius, the one on the Universe and the other called the Labyrinth, — the author was designated, or probably had designated himself, as Presbyteros at Rome and Bishop of the heathen (ethnon). That at that time there were no Bishops without a fixed See has been already remarked. The author was therefore really Bishop of a definite Church, and the only question is, what is the meaning of the addition ethnon and of the title "Presbyteros" united with that of Bishop?

It has long ago been remarked that the name presbyteros was, at the end of the second century, still used of bishops. Most remarkable is this in Irenaeus, who not only frequently uses the word of Bishops, eg those of Rome, or his own teacher Polycarp, but also speaks of the Presbyters who had the Episcopal Succession from the Apostles the charisma of the truth. He mentions also some who were accounted as Presbyters by many, but, being made arrogant by their position, were treated with less respect by others. Again, in Irenaeus, and in a well-known passage of Papias, the first immediate disciples and contemporaries of the Apostles are called Presbyters. It has been rightly remarked, that here the notion of what is ancient and honourable is associated with the word, and that the name Presbyteros, even when given to a Bishop, was a title of honour ; but unmistakably something further must have been implied in this title, viz. the authority to teach, the Magisterium. Bishops or others are called Presbyters primarily as the holders and teachers of ecclesiastical tradition and knowledge.

The point then is that Irenaeus might actually have been a bishop of Rome. It's worth doing some further investigations.

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